Controversial remarks made by Spain’s newest cardinal have landed the Catholic Church in hot water with gay rights advocates. Archbishop Fernando Sebastian Aguilar said Sunday that homosexuality was a “defect” that needed to be addressed so that homosexuals could find a way to cure themselves going forward.
“Homosexuality is a defective manner of expressing sexuality, because this [sex] has a structure and a purpose, which is procreation,” Aguilar told the Spanish newspaper Diario Sur. “A homosexual who can’t achieve this [procreation] is failing.”
The 84-year-old priest then furthered the conversation by saying that his comments weren’t meant to be taken as an insult, but rather, as a way to help homosexuals cure themselves and become “normal.”
“Our bodies have many defects. I have high blood pressure,” said Aguilar, “It’s a defect that I have to try and correct in whatever way I can…To say that homosexuality is a defect is not an insult: it helps because in many cases of homosexuality it is possible to recover and become normal with the right treatment.”
The cardinal’s comments were immediately condemned by Spanish gay rights group Colegas. In a statement on their website, the group asked Aguilar to retract his remarks.
“Homosexuality is not a curable illness,” the group’s statement read, “but homophobia is.”
The comments by Aguilar, who is scheduled to assume his Cardinal position in February, seem to come in stark contrast from the ones made by Pope Francis in July 2013, when the pontiff stated that homosexuals shouldn’t be marginalized “if they accept the Lord and have good will.”
Aguilar’s comments could make for bad press for a church that has only recently begun to sway public opinion in its favor under Pope Francis. According to Gallup Polls, Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, hit all-time lows for approval ratings during his papacy, earning a paltry 40 percent approval rating amongst Americans in 2010 during wide-ranging child abuse allegations.
These numbers however, have been rapidly changing in the months since Pope Francis’ assumption of the papacy. The Argentinian pope scored an 88 percent approval rating according to a recently published CNN poll, drawing rave reviews amongst Catholics and non-Catholics worldwide for his humility and moderately progressive views.
He was recently named Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year”, and a Quinnipiac University study showed two-thirds of Catholics agree with Pope Francis’ statements when he said that the Catholic Church has become “obsessed” with moral issues including homosexuality and contraception, and that it needed to find a “new balance.”
Aguilar’s assertion that homosexuality can be cured also differs from the beliefs of most Catholics. According to a study by the Public Religion Research Institute, almost 70 percent of all Catholics don’t believe sexual orientation can be changed.